Apparent Gaza activists hurl paint at homes of Brooklyn Museum leaders, including Jewish director

NEW YORK (AP) — People purporting to be pro-Palestinian activists hurled red paint at the homes of top leaders at the Brooklyn Museum, including its Jewish director, and also splashed paint across the front of diplomatic buildings for Germany and the Palestinian Authority, prompting a police investigation and condemnation from city authorities.

Mayor Eric Adams, in a post on the social platform X, shared images of a brick building splashed with red paint with a banner hung in front of the door that called the museum’s director, Anne Pasternak, a “white-supremacist Zionist.”

“This is not peaceful protest or free speech. This is a crime, and it’s overt, unacceptable antisemitism,” Adams wrote of the paint attacks early Wednesday. Adams sent sympathy to Pasternak and other museum board members whose homes were defaced.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat who lives close to the Brooklyn Museum, praised it on the Senate floor as an institution whose leaders are “deeply concerned with issues of social justice,” and said the pictures of the director's home filled him with grief and anger.

“Every single American needs to see this. This is the face of hatred. Jewish Americans made to feel unsafe in their own home – just because they are Jewish.”

Four museum officials were targeted. Not all are Jewish, Brooklyn Museum spokesperson Taylor Maatman said. A report was filed with police.

Red paint was also splashed early Wednesday across the front of a Manhattan building that houses Germany’s consulate and its United Nations mission, and another building that is a headquarters for Palestinian diplomats. Flyers critical of the Palestinian Authority and its president, Mahmoud Abbas, were scattered outside the building.

It wasn’t immediately clear who was responsible or whether the acts of vandalism were all related.

The paint attacks came the same week that pro-Palestinian groups held a large demonstration outside a New York City exhibition memorializing victims of the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on the Tribe of Nova music festival. The group Within Our Lifetime called the tribute to the victims “Zionist propaganda” and dismissed the music festival, where hundreds died, as “a rave next to a concentration camp.”

That protest also drew condemnations from across the political spectrum.

“The callousness, dehumanization, and targeting of Jews on display at last night’s protest outside the Nova Festival exhibit was atrocious antisemitism — plain and simple,” U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said Tuesday on X.

One group of protesters riding a subway train to the demonstration outside the Nova exhibit chanted “Raise your hands if you’re a Zionist,” at their fellow passengers, followed by "This is your chance to get out.”

Leaders of Jewish organizations said a widely shared video of the subway episode was horrifying.

“Essentially it’s a call for separating Jews from everybody else on the subway and somehow kicking them off,” said Scott Richman, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League for New York and New Jersey.

“Every Jew is looking at that and saying ‘What if I were on the subway?’ or ‘What if I were standing at the Nova exhibit and hearing that awful rhetoric and seeing Hamas flags being waved?’” Richman said.

Richman said hateful words can lead to antisemitic violence like the 2018 massacre at Pittsburgh's Tree of Life synagogue.

“You just need one unhinged person to hear all of this hateful rhetoric and decide that they’re going to take action,” he said.

Logan Levkoff-Cortes, who heads a Jewish National Fund program to send non-Jewish college students to Israel, said the use of “Zionist” as a derogatory term was “a blatant display of antisemitism.”

“There is no distinction between asking Zionists to get off the train car and asking for Jews to get off,” she said. “It has become this legitimized buzzword for people to talk about Jews without using the word Jews,” she said.

Videos posted on social media also showed demonstrators spraying the side of a subway train at the Union Square station with graffiti.

A spokesperson for the New York Police Department said it was investigating the vandalism aimed at the Brooklyn Museum leaders and the diplomatic buildings. The German mission said its security staff was in close contact with New York authorities. A message seeking comment was also sent to Palestinian diplomats.

Hundreds of protesters marched on the Brooklyn Museum late last month, briefly setting up tents in the lobby and unfurling a “Free Palestine” banner from the roof before police moved in to make dozens of arrests. Similar protests have happened since October at other New York City museums.

Within Our Lifetime and other organizers of that demonstration said in a statement that it did not coordinate the paint attacks, but “we commend” any such actions. The group has said the museum is “deeply invested in and complicit" in Israel’s military actions in Gaza through its leadership, trustees, corporate sponsors and donors — a claim museum officials have denied.

“Earlier today, the homes of people connected to the Brooklyn Museum were vandalized in an attempt to threaten and intimidate them,” the museum spokesperson, Maatman, said in a statement. “For two centuries, the Brooklyn Museum has worked to foster mutual understanding through art and culture, and we have always supported peaceful protest and open, respectful dialogue. Violence, vandalism, and intimidation have no place in that discourse.”

City Comptroller Brad Lander, who was among the New York politicians to speak out against the protests, said the Brooklyn Museum has done more to grapple with questions of “power, colonialism, racism & the role of art” than many other museums.

“The cowards who did this are way over the line into antisemitism, harming the cause they claim to care about, and making everyone less safe,” he wrote on X.

The grand beaux arts museum, the city’s second largest, sits at the edge of Crown Heights, home to one of the city’s largest communities of Orthodox Jews.

It is no stranger to ideological confrontations.

Then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani threatened to close the museum in 1999 over artwork he considered disrespectful of Catholics. Protesters have staged demonstrations inside, outside, and on top of the building repeatedly over the years. And in 2016, pro-Palestinian activists demonstrated against a photo exhibit on life in Israel and the West Bank, saying it did not take a strong enough stance against Israeli “colonization.”


Associated Press reporters Jennifer Peltz and Karen Matthews. Follow Philip Marcelo at

Philip Marcelo, The Associated Press